Volume 4 Issue 9 - May 01, 2006

‘We don't have the money to provide you with all your rights': Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu

D.N.I.S. News Network - In a shocking incident, the Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu recently displayed discourtesy toward a delegation of disability activists, while also exposing a total lack of concern for the needs of disabled people in exercising their right to vote.

The incident was highlighted by the Chennai-based Vidya Sagar, which is a part of the Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.), through a media release after the incident. Tamil Nadu is scheduled for Assembly polls and the disability activists here have been campaigning for making the voting process accessible.

On 15 April 2006, a delegation of D.R.G. members from the state paid a visit to the office of Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta to press upon him the need for setting up polling booths in the ground floor to facilitate easy access for disabled and elderly people, providing ramps at the booths with stairs, erecting signboards in bright colours and auditory signals inside and outside the booths and making available Braille-enabled Electronic Voting Machines to enable visually impaired voters to vote independently.

The delegation, however, received a rude shock at the manner in which he treated them. His attitude towards disabled people was totally negative and his response was hurting, said Rajiv Rajan, Coordinator, Disability Legislation Unit, South. A person with cerebral palsy, Rajiv wanted to raise a point regarding holistic accessibility. The officer interrupted him by saying: I cant understand your speech, so you better be quiet. This is a complete violation of the Right to Expression and Speech guaranteed by the Constitution of India, the group pointed out in the press release.

Gupta commented that there are many marginalised groups like the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, also asking for their rights. He bluntly said, We don't have the money to provide you with all your rights.

The members of D.R.G. were not even asked to sit. According to the release, Gupta is said to have remarked that disabled people should not expect everything from the State/Government and that they should be self-reliant.

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